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The following is an open letter to Mr. Thomas Pynchon, the author of the new novel "Inherent Vice."

Dear Mr. Pynchon,

I am writing this letter to request that you refund the $30.40 I recently spent to purchase your latest novel “Inherent Vice.” Being painfully aware that, as the saying goes, there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that this will ever happen, I want to at least take this opportunity to explain why I feel the refund is due.

I became aware of your new book after reading a couple of very enthusiastic reviews in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. Having never read any of your books I felt confident enough to make this an opportunity to become acquainted with your work.

I walked into my local Boarders bookstore one evening and spotted the book. The first red flag was the dust jacket – I hate pink! I don’t know why I hate pink, I just do…do you know what I mean? They say you can’t judge a book by its cover…I beg to differ. Anyway, I picked up a copy, took a deep breath, and made the purchase.

Knowing that the plot of “Inherent Vive” revolves around the wisecracking teahead PI Doc Sportello, I thought it would be a great idea to get into the mood of the novel by getting stoned myself. Wrong! After just six chapters I was so totally confused by the unlikely story, the never ending cast of unbelievable characters and cutesy-cutesy dialogue that I decided to start reading the book over – straight. Needless to say this did not help.

By page 233 I had finally had enough of “Inherent Vice” and decided not to waste any more time on it. Then the very depressing thought crossed my mind that if I had not spent $30.44 on your book I could have gotten a much better bag of weed. So I absentmindedly tossed the book across the living room and it smashed in a very expensive lamp my wife loves very much.

Therefore, Mr. Pynchon, I am enclosing a copy of my receipt and respectfully request a refund at your earliest convenience.

Yours most sincerely,

john. john doe.

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The following comments are for "Inherent Vice - Thomas Pynchon."
by johnjohndoe

with all due respect...
...what the hell?

You want a refund from an author because their work did not please you? Does this strike you as likely to go over well on a literature website?

I didn't realize art was required to satisfy *everyone everywhere* to be acceptable. Or perhaps your concern is that you didn't feel the book was understandable or believable enough?

"Dear Mr. Joyce: That 'Finnegans Wake' was total crap! Just a bunch of scatalogical jokes and wordplay."

"Dear Mr. Polo and Mr. Rusticello: You're obviously making it up. False advertising."

"Dear Mr. Shakespeare: Nobody talks like that. Your dialogue sucks."

"Dear King James: This book is nonsensical, dogmatic, self-contradictory, and full of deus ex machina."

You didn't like the book? That's fine.

You feel you are *entitled* to a refund because you didn't like the book? You'd be better off sticking to weed...

"Dear Mr. Shady Guy Behind the Pick 'N Save: This high was totally not the kind of high I was expecting. I wanted a deep spiritual experience, but I just got the giggles and ate a cheeseburger instead. I am enclosing the stems and seeds, and respectfully request a refund at your earliest convenience...

( Posted by: Beckett Grey [Member] On: August 18, 2009 )

dear Beckett Grey,
i take it you haven't read "inherent vice" (or a least, like myself, tried to read it).

i paid good money for thay book and i have a perfect right to express my opinion of it. many people are paid big bucks for the book reviews.

besides that, i refuse to bow-down to the idea of the untouchable "artist." i expect a certain level of crafsmanship from a former "national book award" winner such as mr. pynchon (speaking of which, try and give his novel "gravity's rainbow" a serious read! good luck, my friend). as the book's consumer, i reserve the right to my opinion of it.

finally, i think it should mightbe inspirational to those of us who frequent this and other lit. websites that the pros should be brought to task for their abilities or lack there of.

thanks for your thoughtful comment.

john. john doe.

ps. i will certainly let you know if i receive my refund...don't forget the snowball.

( Posted by: johnjohndoe [Member] On: August 18, 2009 )

As far as book reviews go . . .
. . . this was quite interesting and imaginative.

I think I know one book I'm not too motivated to read now.

Johnjohndoe, was it really THAT bad?


PS: If you mail this review to the publisher, I want to know what happens!

( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: August 18, 2009 )

I needed that........
The book review not withstanding, the comments had me cracking up. You two have the witty banter thing down pat. It was wonderfuly funny. I would suggest you two team and write a debate about the subject. I'm not being sarcastic, the comments were good stuff, well written, articulate, and they had a dry sense of humor that is right up my alley. Well done to both of you.

As for the book review itself, while I tend to agree with you about the fact that there should be some type of craftmenship to art, I'm leaning toward the opposing view on the refund. An artist just put's his/her stuff out there for the public. Its the consumer's responsiblity to decide whether or not they like the art, whatever form it takes, before purchase. Had it been me, I would have made sure the book was something I would enjoy before buying it. Most book store's have a couch or a few comfortable chairs in them, I would have sat down and read a chapter or two before purchasing. That's why I always do my book shopping on a weekend, so I have the time to do so. Just my humble opinion, no offense meant to either party.

I was sincere when talking about the getting together and writing a debate, I suggest a comedey sketch or somthing of that nature, again, very funny stuff here. :)


( Posted by: HeRoCoMpLeX [Member] On: August 19, 2009 )

right to review
actually, jd, your review made me laugh out loud. I like Pynchon and it still made me laugh out loud. it gave me a glimpse of what to expect in terms of character and plot: “revolves around the wisecracking teahead PI Doc Sportello” and in terms of style: “unlikely story, the never ending cast of unbelievable characters and cutesy-cutesy dialogue”, which a review is supposed to do. it also expressed an opinion as to the reviewer’s take on the merits of the work: few and far between. a review is supposed to do that too. and yours delivers in a flippant, enjoyable style. will it deter me from reading Pynchon? no. did I enjoy hearing about your lamp smashing antics? you bet...

I think, though, I disagree as regards to craftsmanship and consumerism. a book is not an umbrella, finite in form and function. it doesn’t serve one practical and objective purpose, it has manifold meanings, is open to subjective responses and interpretations. so, where as if I buy an umbrella and it lets in rain I’d be justified in taking it back and demanding a refund, trying to engage with a book (or any art object) in the same way strikes me as kind of absurd. I mean, who died and made me sole arbiter of what is artistically acceptable/ proper?
yes, with great power comes great responsibility, and writers and artists have a duty to their public in terms of the quality of their work. but the obligation ends there. as long as something is competently written (i.e. not riddled with typos, plot holes/ inconsistencies, clichés etc) then the rest is just opinion, surely?

I don’t think it’s particularly nourishing or helpful to the creativity or intellect of either party for the relations between artist and public to be defined as service provider and consumer. you start down that road and you end up with bland literature written to rote for the lowest common denominator, for the majority, with publisher’s not taking a chance on anything innovative and original because it’s not “what the public/ the consumer wants”. call me paranoid, if you like, but to my mind we’re dangerously close to that state already, and I’m quite happy to suffer a few Pynchons- however unreadable- to redress that balance...

I mean look at us, debating and engaging all over the place. you don’t get that from plain product, do you?

( Posted by: AuldMiseryGuts [Member] On: August 19, 2009 )

re: johnjohndoe
"i paid good money for that book..."

You paid for ART. It doesn't come with a warranty. You don't get a 2-Year Money-Back Guarantee. It doesn't even promise to improve your love life, solve your financial problems, or help you lose weight. It sits there and IS ART, and is appreciated (or not) by those who take it in.

Some people hate the band Throbbing Gristle. Does that make their 'product' faulty? No. Because art isn't Right or Wrong, just liked or disliked. Me personally, I can't stand the damn Beach Boys, but I'd probably get funny looks if I suggested in mixed company that they were broken. Ditto any other art.

You have EVERY right to state your opinion, and NONE WHATSOEVER to assume your opinion should be the universal yardstick by which the 'quality' of something should be measured. Beauty seems to be in the eye of the beholder, and therefore pretty hard to standardize.

"...speaking of which, try and give his novel "gravity's rainbow" a serious read! good luck, my friend..."

Why not? I loved The Crying of Lot 49, and even if Gravity's Rainbow is awful, the audiobook I've got is read by George Guidall. I'd listen to a grocery list if it was read by George Guidall.

( Posted by: Beckett Grey [Member] On: August 19, 2009 )

Publishing is a business. A book is a product. True enough – a book can be a marvelous work of fiction, or intriguing poetry, or it might be an interesting cookbook, an important textbook or a whimsical graphic novel. But the selling of books and the promotion of authors and their images, believe it or not, like it or not, is all about the bottom line – making money. And that is not a bad thing. For without the business of publishing there would never have been an Ernest Hemingway or Thomas Wolfe or Thomas Pynchon…or any of your favorite authors (Mark Twain, in fact, went broke trying to become a publisher).

Publishing is a business. A book is a product – much like an umbrella. True, an umbrella is rather inanimate object produced and sold for a particular purpose. Not very romantic is it? But get caught in a driving rain while your umbrella is sitting useless at home and it takes on a much more significant aspect…doesn’t it? It’s the same with a book. A book is an inanimate object unless one engages with it. But a book will never keep you dry in a rainstorm (unlike, perhaps, a newspaper might).

Publishing is a business. And it’s a very tough business. Authors know this. They know it very well. The vast majority of authors cannot depend on their book sales for their livelihood; poets that support themselves strictly by their publishing are as rare as hen’s teeth (my heroes Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe lived of wealthy women until they were lucky enough to come into their own and support themselves through the sales their product).

Publishing is a business. That’s why I wrote the letter to Mr. Pynchon. I did a piece of business with he and his publisher and the [product did not live up to its implied expectations…therefore my request for a refund (another knock I have against the book is the flimsy cheap binding)

Thanks to all the above for your eloquent heartfelt opinions.

( Posted by: johnjohndoe [Member] On: August 20, 2009 )

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